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The Migration Period was a period in the history of Europe, during and after the decline of the Western Roman Empire, during which there was widespread migration of and invasions by peoples, notably the Germanic tribes, the Huns, the early Slavs, and the Pannonian Avars within or into the Roman Empire (and later the Byzantine Empire). The period is traditionally taken to have begun in AD 375 (possibly as early as 300) and ended in 568. It is also sometimes called, from the Roman and Greek perspective, the period of Barbarian Invasions.[2]

The Migration Period was followed by the Viking Age.

There are differences of opinion among historians as to the dates for the beginning and ending of the Migration Period. The beginning of the period is widely regarded as the invasion of Europe by the Huns from Asia in 375 and the ending with the conquest of Italy by the Lombards in 568,[3] but a more loosely set period is from as early as 300 to as late as 800.[4] Various factors contributed to this phenomenon of migration and invasion, and their role and significance are still in discussion among experts on the subject. For example, in 382, the first Visigoths settled as foederati within the Roman Empire, and the Franks, a Germanic tribe that would later found Francia, a predecessor of modern France and Germany, settled in the Roman Empire and were given the task of securing the provinces of Gaul. Western Roman rule was first violated with the Crossing of the Rhine[clarification needed] and the following invasions of the Vandals and Suebi. With wars ensuing between various tribes, as well as local populations in the Western Roman Empire, more and more power was transferred to Germanic and Roman militaries.

There are contradictory opinions whether the fall of the Western Roman Empire was a result or a cause of these migrations, or both. The Eastern Roman Empire, as a politic entity, was less affected by the migrations; despite losing much of its population and being forced to pay tribute to invading tribes, the Byzantine Empire survived until the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453. In the modern period, the Migration Period-periodization came to as a rather negative connotation of the earlier tribal peoples, and their invasions seen as affecting the fall of the empire. In place of the fallen Western Rome, Barbarian kingdoms arose in the 5th and 6th centuries and thus shaped the European Early Middle Ages.

The migrants comprised war bands or tribes of 10,000 to 20,000 people,[5] but in the course of 100 years they numbered not more than 750,000 in total,[citation needed] compared to an average 40 million population of the Roman Empire at that time. Although immigration was common throughout the time of the Roman Empire,[6] the period in question was, in the 19th century, often defined as running from about the 5th to 8th centuries AD.[7][8] The first migrations of peoples were made by Germanic tribes such as the Goths (including the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths), the Vandals, the Anglo-Saxons, the Lombards, the Suebi, the Frisii, the Jutes, the Burgundians, the Alemanni, the Scirii and the Franks; they were later pushed westward by the Huns, the Avars, the Slavs and the Bulgars.[9]

Later invasions, such as the Viking, the Norman, the Varangian, the Hungarian, the Moorish, the Turkic and the Mongol, also had significant effects (especially in North Africa, the Iberian Peninsula, Anatolia and Central and Eastern Europe); however, they are usually considered outside the scope of the Migration Period.

Rather than "invasion", German and Slavic scholars speak of "migration" (German: Völkerwanderung, Czech: Stěhování národů, Swedish: folkvandring and Hungarian: népvá

Rather than "invasion", German and Slavic scholars speak of "migration" (German: Völkerwanderung, Czech: Stěhování národů, Swedish: folkvandring and Hungarian: népvándorlás), aspiring to the idea of a dynamic and "wandering Indo-Germanic people".[38]

Historians have postulated several explanations for the appearance of "barbarians" on the Roman frontier: climate change, weather

Historians have postulated several explanations for the appearance of "barbarians" on the Roman frontier: climate change, weather and crops, population pressure, a "primeval urge" to push into the Mediterranean, the construction of the Great Wall of China causing a "domino effect" of tribes being forced westward, leading to the Huns falling upon the Goths who, in turn, pushed other Germanic tribes before them.[39] In general, French and Italian scholars have tended to view this as a catastrophic event, the destruction of a civilization and the beginning of a "Dark Age" that set Europe back a millennium.[40] In contrast, German and English historians have tended to see Roman–Barbarian interaction as the replacement of a "tired, effete and decadent Mediterranean civilization" with a "more virile, martial, Nordic one".[40]

The scholar Guy Halsall has seen the barbarian movement as the result of the fall of the Roman Empire, not its cause.[40] Archaeological finds have confirmed that Germanic and Slavic tribes were settled agriculturalists who were probably merely "drawn into the politics of an empire already falling apart for quite a few other causes".[41] The Crisis of the Third Century caused significant changes within the Roman Empire in both its western and its eastern portions.[42] In particular, economic fragmentation removed many of the political, cultural and economic forces that had held the empire together.[43]

The rural population in Roman provinces became distanced from the metropolis, and there was little to differentiate them from other peasants across the Roman frontier. In addition, Rome increasingly used foreign mercenaries to defend itself. That "barbarisation" parallelled changes within Barbaricum.[44]

For example, the Roman Empire played a vital role in building up barbarian groups along its frontier. Propped up with imperial support and gifts, the armies of allied barbarian chieftains served as buffers against other, hostile, barbarian groups. The disintegration of Roman economic power weakened groups that had come to depend on Roman gifts for the maintenance of their own power. The arrival of the Huns helped prompt many groups to invade the provinces for economic reasons.[45]

The nature of the barbarian takeover of former Roman provinces varied from region to region. For example, in Aquitaine, the provincial administration was largely self-reliant. Halsall has argued that local rulers simply "handed over" military rule to the Ostrogoths, acquiring the identity of the newcomers.[14] In Gaul, the collapse of imperial rule resulted in anarchy: the Franks and Alemanni were pulled into the ensuing "power vacuum",[46] resulting in conflict. In Spain, local aristocrats maintained independent rule for some time, raising their own armies against the Vandals. Meanwhile, the Roman withdrawal from lowland England resulted in conflict between Saxons and the Brittonic chieftains (whose centres of power retreated westward as a result). The Eastern Roman Empire attempted to maintain control of the Balkan provinces despite a thinly-spread imperial army relying mainly on local militias and an extensive effort to refortify the Danubian limes. The ambitious fortification efforts collapsed, worsening the impoverished conditions of the local populace and resulting in colonization by Slavic warriors and their families.[47]

Halsall and Noble have argued that such changes stemmed from the breakdown in Roman political control, which exposed the weakness of local Roman rule. Instead of large-scale migrations, there were military takeovers by small groups of warriors and their families, who usually numbered only in the tens of thousands. The process involved active, conscious decision-making by Roman provincial populations.

The collapse of centralized control severely weakened the sense of Roman identity in the provinces, which may explain why the provinces then underwent dramatic cultural changes even though few barbarians settled in them.[48]

Ultimately, the Germanic groups in the Western Roman Empire were accommodated without "dispossessing or overturning indigenous society", and they maintained a structured and hierarchical (but attenuated) form of Roman administration.[49]

Ironically, they lost their unique identity as a result of such an accommodation and were absorbed into Latinhood. In contrast, in the east, Slavic tribes maintained a more "spartan and egalitarian"[50] existence bound to the land "even in times when they took their part in plundering Roman provinces".[51] Their organizational models were not Roman, and their leaders were not normally dependent on Roman gold for success. Thus they arguably had a greater effect on their region than the Goths, the Franks or the Saxons had on theirs.[52]

Based on the belief that particular types of artifacts, elements of personal adornment generally found in a funerary context, are thought to indicate the race and/or ethnicity of the person buried, the "Culture-History" school of archaeology assumed that archaeological cultures represent the Urheimat (homeland) of tribal polities named in historical sources.[53] As a consequence, the shifting extensions of material cultures were interpreted as the expansion of peoples.[54]

Influenced by constructionism, process-driven archaeologists rejected the culture-historical doctrineInfluenced by constructionism, process-driven archaeologists rejected the culture-historical doctrine[54] and marginalized the discussion of ethnicity altogether and focused on the intragroup dynamics that generated such material remains. Moreover, they argued that adoption of new cultures could occur through trade or internal political developments rather than only military takeovers.