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3000 - 200 BC
2nd century BC - 5th century AD
From the 5th century AD
     Vandals in Carthage
     Attila and the Huns
     Slavs in eastern Europe
     Angles and Saxons

The spread of Islam
Middle Ages
19th century America
To be completed

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The Vandals: AD 406-439

Unlike the Visigoths and the Franks, the Vandals make no pretence of cooperating with Rome. On the last day of December 406, together with other barbarian tribes, they cross the frozen Rhine near Mainz. For the next three years they ravage Gaul, before moving south in 409 into Spain. They establish themselves there until, in 417, they are invaded by the Visigoths (acting on behalf of the Romans).

By 429 the Visigoths have conquered most of the Iberian peninsula. The Vandals move on south, crossing to north Africa under the leadership of a young king, Gaiseric. In 439 Gaiseric inflicts a serious defeat on the Romans, capturing the important city of Carthage.


The Vandals in Carthage: AD 439-533

With Carthage as his base, Gaiseric dominates the western Mediterranean - much as the Carthaginians once did. He annexes Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and the Balearic islands. In 455 he even invades Italy, reaching and capturing Rome. His troops plunder systematically for two weeks, carrying off many treasures (including those which Titus, in this game of imperial plunder, has taken four centuries previously from the Temple in Jerusalem). The empress and her two daughters are taken as hostages.

The independent Vandal kingdom, a thorn in the side of Rome, lasts almost a century - until destroyed by a Byzantine expedition in 533.


The Burgundians: AD 413-436

The Burgundians are not far behind the Vandals in crossing the Rhine, in 413, but they remain more modestly just a few miles west of the river, at Worms. They are dislodged from here by the Romans in 436 and are settled in southeast Gaul, to the east of the Rhône, in the region known as Savoy. Here, like the Visigoths in southwest Gaul, they are given the status of Roman federates.

When attacking the Burgundians in Worms, the Romans have worked in alliance with a much more powerful group of barbarians. But these prove unreliable allies. They are The Huns, a non-Germanic group who for nearly two decades terrorize first the eastern and then the western Roman empire.


The Huns: AD 434-453

In 434 two brothers, Bleda and Attila, jointly succeed their uncle in the leadership of the Huns. In the two generations since their defeat of the Ostrogoths and Visigoths, these people have steadily won control of a large territory stretching from the Alps up to the Baltic and east as far as the Caspian. With their speed and ferocity as mounted archers, the Huns terrify their more sedate neighbours. They have developed the habit of demanding large sums in tribute from the eastern Roman empire.

One of the first acts of Bleda and Attila is to double the annual tribute of gold from Constantinople - to more than 300 kilograms a year.


When the Romans are slow to pay, Attila goes on a rampage of destruction - south over the Danube and east as far as Gallipoli (he wastes no time attacking Constantinople itself, where the great walls are impervious to mere archers, however Hunnish). The result is a new agreement in 443. The Roman arrears are calculated at 3000 kilograms of gold. The annual tribute is raised to 1000 kilograms.

In about 445 Attila murders his brother and henceforth rules without restriction.


As yet Attila has not invaded the western empire, but he is provided in 450 with an interesting pretext. He receives a ring from Honoria, the sister of the western emperor. In the accompanying message Honoria explains that an unwelcome marriage has been arranged for her; she begs Attila to rescue her from this fate. With some justification he takes this as a proposal. He accepts, and demands half the western empire as her dowry.

When Attila enters Gaul in 451, the expectant bridegroom meets his first setback. A Roman army, supported by Visigoths and Burgundians (fulfilling their obligation as federates), defeats him at an unidentified site described as the Catalaunian Plain, somewhere between Troyes and Châlons-sur-Marne.


Attila withdraws from Gaul but in the spring of 452 he invades northern Italy, sacking many towns before plague and famine cause him to turn and retreat again to the north - a happy conclusion often also credited to a timely visit by pope Leo I. In 453 the conqueror, who has earned from his Christian enemies the title 'Scourge of God', dies in his bed on the night of his wedding to a new young wife.

He already has a great many sons, whose quarrels soon dissipate the empire of the Huns. By the end of the 5th century, during which Attila has terrorized the Roman empire, the Huns have effectively faded from history. Their collapse provides a welcome opportunity for the neighbouring Slavs.


The Slavs in eastern Europe: 6th century AD

The Slavs are first referred to by this name in 518 when they press into the Roman empire across the Danube, though they have been settled for more than a millennium in the region to the north (between the Vistula and Dnieper rivers).

After the collapse of the empire of the Huns, in the 5th century, the Slavs begin to expand their territory. They move westwards into what are now the Czech republic and Slovakia and south towards the Adriatic and Aegean - where their separate political and religious development as Slovenes, Croats, Serbs, Bosnians, Macedonians and Bulgarians later makes the peninsula of the Balkans one of the most complex regions on the face of the earth.


Angles and Saxons: 5th - 6th century

With Gaul in the hands of Germanic chieftains, and the Roman legions withdrawn from Britain, land-hungry tribes are tempted by the short step across the English Channel. Among those who take this step, invading the eastern and southern coasts of England, are Angles and Saxons. They come from Denmark, from northwest Germany and from the lower reaches of the Rhine.

By the 7th century the invading Germanic tribes have restricted Celtic rule to the mountainous regions of Wales in the west of Britain and to Scotland in the north. Anglo-Saxon kingdoms become the basis of a region recognizable now for the first time as England.


The Lombards: 6th - 8th century

Originating probably in northern Germany, the Lombards move south into the region of Hungary in the early 6th century. From there, in 568, they enter northern Italy. By this time they are already Christians, but of the Arian variety - like other Germanic tribes.

By 572 the whole of Italy north of the Po is in their hands (a disaster with one positive result, in the foundation of Venice). The Lombards rule at first as an occupying force, from armed encampments, but gradually Pavia emerges as their capital city. Their presence has an immediate effect on Byzantine ambitions in Italy. The imperial territory becomes much more clearly circumscribed.


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