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Alexander the Great) to Hadel, where they landed, and buy-
ing from the Thuringi, who at that period stretched far down
toward the Northern Ocean, a gownful of earth, spread it
over a large territory, to which they laid claim, and then
inviting the Thuringian chiefs to meet them unarmed for
the purpose of negotiating the affair, murdered them during
the banquet with knives worn for that purpose, concealed
beneath their dresses. According to a legend somewhat
similar to that of the Edda, the Saxons and their first king
Ascan sprang from the rocks of the Harz Mountains; and
the proverb, "There are Saxons wherever pretty girls grow
out of the trees," is still in use. The ancient account of this
people is very obscure. Odin went from Saxony to Scandi-
navia, and his descendants at a later period from that coun-
try to England. In the beginning of the third century, the
Chauci were powerful by sea, and plundered the Roman
coasts ; and somewhat later, the Saxons were continually at
war with the Normans in Denmark and Norway. When
the Roman empire was under the joint rule of Diocletian
and Maximian, the former of whom defended the Danube,
the latter the Rhine, the subjection of the Saxon pirates,
who had long and unopposed infested the northern seas, was
planned, and toward the close of the third century, Carau-
sius, an experienced sea captain, attacked and overcame
them. He subsequently entered into a strict alliance with
them, and set himself up as emperor, a title which he, for
some time, maintained by their assistance.

The connection between the Saxons and the Vindili, or
the Gothic tribes on the Baltic, is also buried in obscurity.
When the latter, migrating in a body to the south, left their
ancient place of abode completely unoccupied, they were suc-
ceeded by the Slavian tribes, who, settling there, became the
eastern neighbors of the Saxons. It is only known for cer-
tain, that a part of the Saxons accompanied the Longobardi
to Italy, but by far the greater number migrated to Eng-


land. It was customary for the old men to remain at home,
while the surplus population, consisting of young and hardy
warriors, was annually sent forth to seek a settlement else-
where, and to win a new country by their swords. Godfrey
of Monmouth, the English chronicler, relates that the first
Saxons who visited England alleged this custom as the rea-
son of their migration. An annual meeting of all the chiefs
of the people was held at Marklo in Saxony, and the young
men, chosen by lot, were, according to law, obliged to bid an
eternal farewell to their native country.

LVII. The Goths

Toward the close of the second century, the great nation
of the Goths, accompanied by countless other northern tribes,
descended from the north to the coasts of the Black Sea.
Tradition records that the ancestors of the Goths sailed in
three ships, commanded by King Berig, from their ancient
home, Gothland in Sweden, to the German side of the Baltic,
and landed at Gothiscantzia (Dantzig). One of their ships
arriving later than the rest, the men on board of it received
the name of Gepidae, from the word g apart, to stare idly, to
delay, to gape. Gradually spreading along the coast, they
conquered the Ulmerugi and Vandali, but meeting with op-
position from the Saxons in their advance toward the west,
they turned southward, conquering the tribes or forcing
them along with them on their route, and at length reached
the Black Sea. Many of the Goths were, however, left in
the north, in the part of Sweden that still bears the name
of Gothland. The preponderance of the Gothic name over
those of the other eastern German tribes perhaps arose from
an ancient religious superstition, as well as from their intel-
lectual superiority. The civilized manners of the Greeks
and Romans, and, in later times, Christianity, rapidly spread
among them, and the regulations they introduced, during
the peace consequent on the cessation of migration, were fol-
lowed by all the other German tribes, and laid the founda-


tion of a new era. In other respects, the Goths had the
same form of government with the other Germans. Each
tribe was sometimes headed by an independent chief, who
was either a judge, a duke, or a king; sometimes several of
these tribes obeyed a common head, or it happened that a
king, who had gained the upper hand, reigned over several
minor and tributary chiefs; but this sort of authority was
never of long continuance, and the tribes became once more
independent. At length, the chiefs of the most considerable
tribes succeeded in retaining during peace the authority in-
trusted to them during war, and rendered their dignity not
onlj' perpetual, but alsd added to it a power which soon
threatened the ancient liberties of the people; the natural
result of protracted warfare and of encroaching military
rule. In the great Gothic migrations, the Goths seem to
have been the most considerable nation, and appear after
the Marcomanni, Quadi, Getse, Peucini, and Bastarnse, who
must have been gradually incorporated with them, as they
also were generally denominated Goths, and were divided
into Ostrogoths, of which the Gruthungri formed the most
considerable tribe, and Visigoths, the chief tribes of which
were the Therwingri and Taiphali. Connected with the
Goths were the Gepidse, who are said to have accompanied
them; the Longobardi, from Denmark; the Heruli, also
from the Scandinavian north; the Vandali, from the Baltic;
the Rugii, from the island of Riigen ; the Burgundians, from
the Oder. The Alani, Hirri, and Scirri, are of dubious
origin ; and the Jazyges and Roxolani, who joined the Goths
in their march, were without doubt Sclavonians.

LVIII. Great Irruption against Rome

The Goths were already known at the time of the war
with the Marcomanni, to whose rear they had been long set-
tled before they made a direct attack upon the Roman em-
pire. During the discussion of this project in the popular
assembly, three of their chiefs were struck by lightning, and


the unlucky omen caused its renunciation, a.d. 193. In the
commencement of the third century, they had become ex-
tremely powerful, and compelled the emperor Caracalla to
pay them an annual tribute ; and shortly after, Maximin, a
Goth by birth, was raised to the imperial throne, who, how-
ever, was so devoid of patriotism, as to include his fellow
countrymen in the fierce and cruel war carried on by him
against the western Germans. After his death, the tribute
was again exacted from the Romans, and the Goths invaded
Greece under Ostrogofcha, Argaith, and Guntherich, a.d.
245. Ostrogotha subsequently became a powerful monarch.
Fastida, the great Vandal king, rendered insolent by his vic-
tories over the Burgundians, insisted upon the partition of
the kingdom of Ostrogotha, who vainly represented the folly
of the demand, and advised him to beware of attacking his
brethren, but Fastida, deaf to reason, persisted in his ambi-
tious schemes, and was overthrown.

A formidable Gothic army under Cniva now invaded
Msesia, a.d. 250, defeated the Romans in a great battle at
Bersea, and took possession of Philippopolis, where 100,000
men were put to the sword. During their march toward
Greece, the emperor Decius fell upon their rear and at-
tempted to cut them off; a fierce struggle ensued, in which
Cniva proved victorious. The emperor and his son were
drowned in a lake, and Gallus, his successor, bribing him
to make peace by the payment of a large sum of money, the
Gothic chief departed, laden with booty. In 258, several
hordes, under different chiefs, crossed the Black Sea, and
after plundering and destroying the cities of Asia Minor,
returned to their country; and, reappearmg the following
year, a.d. 259, stormed and sacked the city of Trapezus by
night. The cities of Nicsea and Nicomedia were burned to
the ground during a subsequent incursion, a.d. 260. In 266
they again crossed the Black Sea, under Respa, Veduco,
Thuro, and Bato, and overran the whole of Asia Minor,
plundering and devastating that rich and fertile country.
On their return home, laden with booty, they were attacked


in the Euxine and defeated by a Roman fleet. In the fol-
lowing year, 267, a numerous horde, under King Naulo-
bates, undertook a similar expedition, plundered the Asiatic
coasts, and afterward landed in Greece, where they destroyed
a number of magnificent cities, Athens, the seat of ancient
learning, was taken, and the stupendous collection of Greek
books contained in that city was on the point of being
burned, when an old man, rising up, advised them to leave
the Greeks all their books, "for," said he, "so long as they
use their pens with so much diligence, they will never un-
derstand the use of their swords. ' ' The emperor Gallienus,
after attacking and defeating them on their return home
overland, entered into alliance with them, and since that
period the Heruli were almost constantly engaged in the im-
perial service. Two years later, a.d. 269, two fresh expedi-
tions were undertaken by the Goths. An enormous horde
crossed the Black Sea with 6,000 ships, and landed on the
banks of the Danube, whence, being forced to retreat by the
Romans, they sailed into the Archipelago, and laid waste
the whole of Greece ; but, when attempting to return over-
land to the Danube, they encountered the emperor Claudius,
and being defeated at Naissus, took refuge on Mount Hoemus,
where, hemmed in on every side, they fell victims to hunger
and pestilence. Another horde, after coasting along Asia
Minor, landed in Cyprus, spreading desolation wherever they
appeared, and destroying all the cities. It was by them that
the celebrated ancient temple of Diana at Ephesus, reckoned
one of the seven wonders of the world, was burned. On
their return home through Greece they were also cut to
pieces. These considerable losses for some time checked the
inroads of the Goths, and several warlike emperors succes-
sively mounting the throne, who personally conducted the
war on the Danube, they were compelled to remain within
their own limits. Aurelian, whose wars, although probably
some of the most remarkable that took place, are only lightly
mentioned in history, gained several signal victories over
them. While the Goths, as usual, made an incursion into


Greece, the Marcomanni and Vandali invaded Italy; the
former were defeated with immense slaughter by Aurelian in
Hungary; the latter, meanwhile, advanced as far as Milan,
and caused such terror in Rome that extraordinary human
sacrifices were offered, in order to appease the anger of the
gods. Aurehan overtook the enemy at Placentia, where he
suffered a defeat ; but the Romans, whose courage rose with
the danger, fought on subsequent occasions with such in-
trepidity, that after winning the battles of Fano and Pavia
they forced the Marcomanni to retreat. Aurelian's triumph
was graced with singular trophies; besides the car of a
Gothic king, drawn by six stags, there were several Ama-
zons, who had been captured sword in hand, among whom
the youthful Hunilda, celebrated among the Romans for her
wit, was particularly distinguished. She afterward became
the wife of a man of rank named Bonosus, who, aided by
the Goths, aspired to the imperial throne, and, on discov-
ering the inutility of his attempt, deprived himself of life.
Aurelian owed his victories over the Goths to his German
mercenaries, chiefly Franks, some of whose generals are
mentioned by name, Hartmund, Haldegast, Hildomann,
Cariovist. The emperor Probus watched the Danube as
carefully as the Rhine, refortified the banks of both rivers,
and introduced the vine into Hungary. The emperor Gale-
rius valiantly opposed the Goths, and Constantine the Great
did not belie the cunning he had practiced on the Rhine, by
his conduct toward them. When defeated and forced to
seek safety by flight by their king Ararich, he incited the
Slavonian Sarmatians against them, a.d. 331; but his proj-
ect being foiled by the sudden revolt of the Slavi against
their own nobles, whom they had no sooner driven out of
the country than they concluded peace with the Germans,
he induced the Vandals to attack the Goths, and upon the
defeat of their king Vidumar by Geberich, the successor of
Ararich, he took them under his protection and employed
them in his service. At Constantinople, the new capital of
the eastern empire, there were no less than 40,000 Varin-


gians, or mercenaries, in his pay. Among the countless
Roman prisoners carried by the Goths into the interior of
their countr}^ were several Christians, who succeeded in
converting a great part of the people to Christianity. The
G(3ths in the imperial service were also, for the most part,
Christians; and when, on the conversion of Constantine,
that religion was established throughout the empire, a grand
convocation of the whole of the Christian clergy was held at
Nice, in which the Catholic Church was recognized as the
only true one, a.d. 325.

Several Gothic bishops, present at this assembly, opposed
this decision, from a conviction of the incompatibility of
Catholicism with the pure doctrine of the Saviour.

LIX. The Oreat Empire of Hermanarich — Origin of

the Huns

Peace was no sooner established with Rome than inter-
nal feuds broke out among the Germans. The Ostrogoths
under Ararich and Geberich had already subjugated the
Burgundians, Alani, Vandals, and Gepidse. Geberich's suc-
cessor, Hermanarich (the royal family of the Ostrogoths was
called the Amali — the immaculate?), also subdued the Heruli
and several Slavonian tribes, besides including the Visigoths
beneath his rule, although Athanarich, their prince or judge,
was permitted to retain something of his independence, and
was a viceroy rather than a subject. The empire of Her-
manarich spread from the Baltic to the Black Sea, and this
great king, of whom there unfortunately exists but a very
meager account, entered into an alliance with Rome, and
carried his victorious arms far to the northeast; the treaty
being alone infringed by Athanarich, who waged a three
years' war against the emperor Valens, whose rival, Proco-
pius, was supported by the Visigoths. When Hermanarich
was verj^ old, his empire was threatened by the Huns, an
immense swarm of misshapen barbarians, who gradually
advanced from the depths of Asia toward Europe. The


Slavonian tribes took advantage of the opportunity thus
afforded to free themselves from the Gothic yoke. The
prince of the Roxolani went over to the Huns, and his wife
Sanieth, being, by Hermanarich's command, torn to pieces
by horses, her brothers attempted to revenge her death on
the aged king, whom they grievously wounded, but did not
succeed in depriving of life, and who, when he beheld his
kingdom a prey to discord within, and threatened by the
Huns from without, when, helpless from his wounds and
the infirmities of old age, he was no longer able to ward off
defeat, voluntarily put an end to his existence in his one
hundred and tenth year.

The Huns (Monguls, Calmucks, wandering shepherd
tribes) were natives of the north of Asia, and inhabited
the immense steppes lying between Russia and China.
Divided into tribes and families, and unpossessed of either
cities or houses, they wandered from place to place, seeking
pasturage for their cattle, and dwelt in tents, in which they
also stabled their horses. From being constantly on horse-
back, their legs were weak and crooked. They were short
of stature, extremely broad-shouldered, with strong muscu-
lar arms ; had coarse protruding hps, small flat noses, yellow
complexions, and thick short necks ; in a word, they were
quite as hideous as the Calmucks of the present day. Their
horrid ugliness, immense numbers, activity on horseback,
and skill in archery, struck terror even into the hearts of
the brave Goths, who deemed them the descendants of
wicked demons; a superstition that greatly conduced to
their success. Hermanarich had no sooner taken his seat
among his ancestors in Walhalla than his great empire was
dissolved. Part of the Ostrogoths remained faithful to his
son Hunimund, while the rest raised Winithar to the throne.
The pagan Visigoths attached themselves to Athanarich,
who belonged to the ancient race of the Balti, but those
who had embraced Christianity were ruled by their dukes
Fridigern and Alavius (Olaf). Dissension, meanwhile, pre-
vailed. Athanarich, accusing the Christian Goths of having


abandoned the ancient manners and customs of Germany for
those of Rome, fanatically persecuted them, and, on one oc-
casion, had an idol carried in procession before their houses,
and put all those to death who refused to fall down and
worship it.

Balamir, the great prince of the Huns, overcame Huni-
mund and marched against Winithar, who, after twice de-
feating him, fell in a third engagement, and the Ostrogoths
were constrained to fly. Part of them subsequently sub-
mitted to the Hun, who had married the beautiful Walda-
mara, the widow of Winithar, whose son Widerich, together
with Alatheus and Saphrax, two Ostrogothic chiefs, assem-
bled the remnant of the people and fled. The Visigoths,
who had beheld the defeat of their brethren unmoved, per-
ceived, when too late, the danger to which their supineness
exposed them, but boldly and resolutely taking the field,
marched in a body to oppose the passage of the Huns across
the Dniester; the enemy, however, crossing the river at an-
other point, surrounded and defeated them, and they were
driven behind the Pruth, where, for some time, they val-
iantly defended themselves behind a long wall which they
had hastily thrown up; but, at length, finding opposition
futile, they severally dispersed ; Fridigern and Alavius seek-
ing refuge within the Roman frontier, while Athanarich,
who viewed the Romans as the hereditary foes of his coun-
try and despised them on account of their being Christians,
and who, moreover, had taken a solemn oath to his father
never to set his foot on Roman ground, took shelter in the
valleys of Transylvania.

LX. Migration of the Goths into the Roman Empire

On reaching the Danube, Fridigern and Alavius sent
TJlphilas (Wolflein, little wolf), the pious and learned
Gothic bishop, to entreat the emperor Valens for land on
the Roman side of the Danube, as an asylum from the
Huns. This bishop was the first translator of the Bible


into German. Part of this translation is still extant, and
forms a curious record of the ancient Gothic language and
state of civilization,' He persuaded the emperor to allow
the Goths to pass the frontier, on the ground of its being
far more dangerous to repel them by force ; and his consent
was at length gained, on condition of their delivering up
their arms, and regularly paying for their provisions. The
superintendent, sent for this purpose to the Danube, took
advantage of their blind confidence in his honesty to cheat
them in every way, and, when their money was spent, de-
prived them of their beautiful women and children; in his
rapacity overlooking the fact that a great number of the
Goths had, in their impatience, crossed the river without
yielding up their arms. Deceit, ill-treatment, and the
scanty allowance of food, ere long forced them, although
the greater number were unarmed, to assume a threatening
posture, which caused the Romans to concentrate all the
forces quartered on the Danube on one point. While the
banks were in this defenseless state, the Ostrogoths under
Alatheus and Saphrax arrived, and crossed the river unques-
tioned and unopposed. The Visigoths meanwhile advanced
as far as the great city of Marcianople, where the governor,
Lupicinus, invited the chiefs to a banquet. Their prolonged
absence from the camp caused the people to suspect foul play,
and they began to storm the closed gates of the city, upon
which the treacherous Roman instantly ordered his guests
to be put to death. In this strait, Fridigern, with great bold-
ness and presence of mind, calmly represented to him that,
if he and his companions were murdered, the city would in-

' The so-called Codex Argenteus, an old Gothic translation of the Gospela,
■written in silver characters on a purple ground, now preserved at Upsala in
Sweden, where it was brought in 1 648 by General Konigsmark, who had stolen
it from Prague. It came originally from the monastery of Werden, to which it
had probably been presented by some munificent Frankish chief, and doubtless
fell into the hands of the Franks when they seized the empire of the Visigoths.
The only question is, whether it is the genuine translation of Ulphilas. That
he translated the Bible is most certain. Still, may not the silver characters be
the invention of some other translator, and date about two centuries later? It
is possible ; but the fame of Ulphilas warrants its being at least a strict imita-
tion of the original work.


evitably be destroyed by their avenging countrymen, but
that, if they were set at Kbertj^ they would quickly be ap-
peased. These reasons induced Lupicinus to allow them to
quit the city, and Fridigeru, true to his word, caused the
Goths to retire. But suspicion and enmity had now re-
placed their former confidence, and they found themselves
abandoned to misery and want. The Romans repented of
having permitted the entrance of such a numerous horde
into their territory. Lupicinus at length resolved to have
recourse to arms, and marching with his whole force against
them, suffered a complete defeat. This victory placed the
country at the mercy of the Goths, who seized the weapons
and the produce of the land. The Ostro and Visi-Goths
united in one body, and were joined by the Varingi, or
Gothic mercenaries, who had been in the Roman service
since the time of Constantine, and were commanded by
Sueridus and Colias. They had been quartered at Adria-
nople, and the Romans, apprehending their desertion, in-
tended to have sent them to Asia Minor, but impolitically
refusing the payment of their arrears, they quitted the im-
perial service and went over to their countrymen. The in-
habitants of Mount Hcemus, and the rest of the population
who groaned beneath the heavy Roman yoke, hailed the
Goths as their deliverers, joyf ull.y guided them through the
country, and delivered up to them the concealed treasure
and provisions. Their further advance was impeded by the
city of Adrianople, which long withstood the attack of as-
sailants ignorant of the mode of besieging fortified places.
"While they were thus engaged, the emperor Valens returned
from the Persian war, at the head of a great armj'^, strength-
ened by innumerable Frankish auxiliaries under Richomer,
Mellobaudes, and Frigeridus. Even at that early period a
hatred existed between the Franks and the Saxons, which
until very lately remained unabated. Valens and the Franks
were at first victorious, but when the defeated Goths entered
into an alliance with the Alani and the Huns, who, at that
juncture, poured across the Danube, an engagement such as
Germany. Vol. I. — 7


Europe had never before witnessed, in which a milUon of
men strove, took place on the plains of Adrianople. The
Roman army was completely annihilated, and Valens, who
had been carried wounded into a hut, was there burned to
death, 9th August, 378. The Romans, burning to revenge
their defeat, now collected their whole force, and simultane-
ously murdered all the Goths that remained in Asia Minor,
whether Varingians or private individuals. Theodosius the
Great, the newly-elected emperor, a mighty warrior at the
head of a numerous and exasperated army, aided by
the Franks under Bauto and Arbogastes, wiped off the
disgrace that had befallen the Roman arms in the plains
of Adrianople by several brilliant victories, and chased the
invading hordes across the Danube, where they fell into
the hands of the merciless Huns. In the confusion of the
time, the brave Fridigern, who, until then, had kept the
Goths united, is lost sight of; and the aged Athanarich was
Induced to quit his forest abode in order to form a rallying
point for his dispersing countrymen. The Huns, whom a
part of the Ostrogoths had already joined, appeared to him
more dangerous than the Romans, and, forgetful of his oath,
he sought an alliance with the latter, and strove to assemble

Online LibraryWolfgang MenzelGermany from the earliest period, volume 1 (Volume 1) → online text (page 12 of 41)