HIST 203 Lecture Outline (Fall 2016 – Week 3)



beg. in 3rd C. Roman aristocrats increasingly shun cities and urban officeholding and retreat to rural villas with private armies; aristocracy and power shift from urban-centered to rural-centered; by 5th century, towns in decline in the West
c. 375-600 Germanic migrations/invasions into Western Europe
391 Theodosius I makes Christianity the Roman state religion
395 Death of Theodosius I; empire divided between his two sons: map
410 Visigoths sack Rome
d. 419 St. Jerome (Vulgate Bible)
d. 430 St. Augustine of Hippo (City of God; Confessions)
452 Attila and Huns threaten Rome; Pope Leo I persuades them to leave
455 Vandals sack Rome
476 Odovacar deposes Western Emperor Romulus Augustulus; = end of Western Empire
452-511 Clovis establishes Merovingian dynasty of Franks
493-526 Theodoric the Great, king of the Ostrogoths, defeats Odovacer and establishes Ostrogothic kingdom in N. Italy

Important source for our knowledge of the early Germanic tribes: Tacitus, Germania (AD 98)

Click here to see “Tollund Man,” an Iron Age body discovered in a Danish peat bog in the 1950s. (Tollund Man had been hanged, perhaps as a sacrifice.)

[Note: References to “corn” in Tacitus and in other ancient or medieval texts mean “grain“, not maize (sweet corn). Maize is a New World crop, and was unknown in Europe before the 16th century.]

Features of early Germanic culture include:

  • No writing
  • No cities
  • Importance of kinship ties
  • Warfare and blood-feuds common; personal feuds could be settled by payment of wergild (“man-price”) to victim or victim’s kin
  • In legal disputes, guilt or innocence was established through divine judgment by two methods: compurgation (a declaration of innocence by high-ranking defendants and their oath-helpers)
  • ordeal (a physical test, used for low-ranking defendants)
  • Importance of gift-giving and loyalty between war-leader and his warriors
  • Elective element in selection of king





Sutton Hoo ship burial (1:32 min.):

In Focus: Sutton Hoo (4:21 min.):

The Franks (13:37 min.):

Some important Germanic tribes and their activities:


c. 375 Destroy Gothic kingdom in S. Russia
441-453 Attila attacks Roman Empire (threatens Rome, 452)
476-493 Odovacar deposes last W. Emperor; uses Ravenna as capital; is killed by Theodoric the Ostrogoth


375-379 Flee Huns; settle in Pannonia (N. Yugoslavia, now Slovenia and Bosnia)

Theodoric the Great establishes kingdom in N. Italy, with capital at Ravenna; Arian Ostrogoths segregated from orthodox Italians.

Important sources, by senior officials of Theodoric’s court:
  • Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy
  • Cassiodorus, royal correspondence and History of the Goths
Click on the hot links below for photographs of some of Theodoric the Great’s buildings in Ravenna:
533-553 Gothic War: Ostrogothic kingdom destroyed by Byzantines (E. Romans)


375-378 Flee Huns; move westward into Roman Empire
410 Sack Rome (under Alaric)
early 5th C. Establish kingdom in S. France
later 5th C. Important source: letters of Sidonius Apollinaris (c. 431-489)
late 5th C.

Pushed out by Clovis the Frank; establish new kingdom in Spain; convert from Arianism to orthodox Christianity

Click here for photograph of a votive crown of King Reccesuinth (d. 672)

711 Visigothic kingdom in Spain destroyed by Arabs


early 5th C. Cross Rhine River, Gaul (France), and Spain, and establish kingdom in N. Africa with capital at Carthage
455 Sack Rome (under Geiseric)
534-5 N. African Vandal kingdom destroyed by Byzantines (E. Romans)


448 Establish kingdom near French Alps
516 Convert to orthodox Christianity
534 Burgundian kingdom destroyed by Franks


5th C. Move into Gaul (France)
482-511 Clovis (Chlodovech) establishes Merovingian royal dynasty (named for his grandfather, Merovech), which lasts until 750s; converts from paganism to orthodoxy Christianity; capital = Paris
late 6th C.

Important source: Gregory, bishop of Tours, History of the Franks

Click here for photographs of Frankish art and artifacts


568 Establish kingdom in N. Italy (after destruction of Ostrogoths by Byzantines)
by mid 7th C. Convert to orthodox Christianity
751 Capture Ravenna from Byzantines
774 Destroyed by Charlemagne the Frank


c. 410 Roman army leaves Britain
c. 450-525 Angles, Saxons, and Jutes invade Britain
by 590s

Former Roman province of Britannia is known as England (“Angle-land”)

Click here for some photographs of the excavation at Sutton Hoo (1939):

Some important primary sources for the Germanic invasions and migrations include:

Gregory, bishop of Tours (d. 594), History of the Franks: on Clovis, king of the Franks (d. 511)

Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths (d. 526): correspondence (written by his secretary, Cassiodorus)

The Venerable Bede (d. 735; his tomb in Durham Cathedral survives), Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Chapter 15: The coming of the Anglo-Saxons to Britain