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Athena Review  Vol.2, no.3:     Romans on the Danube


An ABC of Barbarian tribes (and sources on them)


Alani   Iranian tribes, nomadic. In AD 370 beaten by Huns along Danube; joined them to raid Eastern Roman Empire. In AD 406 crossed Rhine, and took land in Spain (Ammianus Marcellinus).

Antes   Dneiper tribe, largest of two Venesthae branches, “live where the Pontic sea is curved” (Jordanes). In late 4c AD, led by King Boz, moved west along Danube, fought a war with Ostrogoths.

Avars   Turkish tribes, nomadic. Early 6c AD in Ukraine (Jordanes). AD 570 defeated Gepidae in Pannonia (Hungary), founded Avarian empire; raided Byzantium. Defeated by Franks & Bulgars in 8c.

Bastarnae   Possibly spoke an East Germanic language. In 182 BC after allying with Macedonians, raided Thrace. In 28 BC raided Macedonia with Gethians. At end of 2c AD driven away from Macedonia by Goths. Between the 2-4 c AD migrated to the Danube and Black Sea areas and settled in Dacia and Thrace (Jordanes; RGA)

Carpi   2c AD in Carpathians. AD 273 raided Danubian region (Moesia) w/ Goths and Sarmatians (Ammianus; RGA).

Dacians   Indo-European tribes N of Danube in Romania. Capital by 100 BC was Sarmizeguthusa, destroyed by Romans in AD 106 (Pliny, Tacitus).

Franks   Germanic tribes. Early 5c AD expanded S from Rhine into Gaul. AD 481 Clovis defeated last Roman army in Gaul and the invading Allemanni. By AD 509 Clovis founded Merovingian kingdom from the Pyrennes to the Rhine (Gregory of Tours).

[Fig 1: Danubian provinces and Barbarian tribes at the end of the 4th century AD.]

Gepidae   Germanic tribes 2-1c BC in lower Vistular; 4c AD reached Danube; defeated by Huns, allied with them. After AD 452 setted along Tisza; in AD 567 were defeated by Avars (Procopius).

Goths   East Germanic tribes, first known along Vistula river (today's north Poland) in area of the Wielbark culture. In 1-2c AD moved S to Black Sea; 3c AD invaded Balkans, settled N of Danube after Romans left Dacia; adopted Christianity in 4c; split into Ostrogoths and Visigoths or E and W Goths (Pliny, Ammianus, Claudianus; RGA).

Heruli   Germanic tribes (Eastern and Western Heruls). In late 4c AD defeated by Huns, then Ostrogoths. After AD 452 East Heruls founded a kingdom N of Danube in Moravia; invaded Illyria and Italy, led by Odoacer. Western Heruls lived on lower Rhine (Cassiodorus; RGA).

Huns   Asiatic tribes who in AD 370 overran the Alani, Heruli & Goths; in 376 invaded Dacia, pushing Ostrogoths against Visigoths, and driving the latter across the Danube. In early 5c settled in Pannonia; raided Roman provinces in Balkans and Europe. After Attila died in AD 453, split into hordes. (Ammianus, Jordanes, Priscus, Procopius).

Jazygai (or Lazyges)   Iranian, Sarmatian tribes. 1c BC settled along Tisza. By AD 375 lived on left bank of Danube; defeated by Valentinian (Ammianus).

Lombards (or Langobardi)   East Germanic tribes who invaded and ruled northern Italy after AD 475. (Cassiodorus) Defeated by Charlemagne in AD 780.

Marcomanni   Germanic tribes. Mid 1c BC lived in valley of Mainz River. AD 166-180 moved to Pannonia, began invasions of Rome (Pliny, Tacitus, Ammianus).

Ostrogoths   Germanic tribes. In AD 372 lived on E bank of Dneister, conquered by Huns. In AD 488 they conquered northern Italy under Theodoric (Ammianus, Claudianus, Cassiodorus, Jordanes).

Roxolani   Asiatic tribes. In 4c BC, moved west to Volga R. In 2c BC joined Sarmatians to attack Black Sea towns. In 1c AD invaded lower Moesia; and in late 3c AD invaded Pannonia (Ammianus.).

Sarmatians   Iranian tribes; 4-2c BC ruled S. Russia. After 1c BC invaded Dacia, raided lower Danube area. By the 4c AD fell to Goths and Huns.

Scythians   Generic name for tribes near the Black Sea, skilled horsemen and warriors (Cassiodorus).

Vandals   East Germanic Tribes. Crossed the Rhine ca. AD 405 after Romans withdrew. Invaded Rome in AD 455, and occupied Ravenna until Odoacer was defeated by Ostrogoths in AD 488-493. Also settled in Spain and N. Africa (Cassiodorus).

Visigoths   Germanic tribes, 4c AD on W bank of the Dneister. After being pushed across Danube in AD 372 by Huns, settled in Roman provinces, then revolted against Rome under Alaric (Ammianus, Claudianus, Cassiodorus, Jordanes).

[Sources: Pliny the Elder, Natural History (AD 77); Tacitus, Germania (AD 98) and Annals (AD 115); Claudius Ptolemaeus, Geographical Outline (2c AD); Sextus Aurelius Victor, Epitome de Caesaribus (AD 360); Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum gestarum libri (AD 390); Claudius Claudianus, Carmina (AD 404); Eusebius Hieronimus, Epistolae (AD 410); Priscus, History (AD 474); Procopius, History (AD 542); Cassiodorus, Getica (AD 560); Gregory of Tours, History of the Franks (AD 575); Jordanes Getica and Romana (AD 580).; RGA: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde (1973)]


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