A Brief Chronology of the Migration of Tribes in Antiquity

8 AD : Tiberius settles 40,000 Suevi and Sugambri nomads on the west side of the Rhine at the Roman frontier, essentially offering them partial citizenship and protection from other tribes in return for fealty, military service and farm labour. At the same time, roughly, while vacationing with his wife on the Isle of Elba, Ovid is seized by the emperors’ secret police (the 'frumentarii'). He is summarily exiled to the edge of the Roman world, a tiny frontier post on the northeast coast of the Black Sea known as Tomis. There he writes the best surviving eyewitness accounts of Rome’s clash with the tribes moving across the Eurasian steppes. Not long after Ovid’s death, the ferocious Getans of whom he wrote have moved into Dacia, just south of the Danube.

171 : Marcus follows Tiberius' lead and begins settling the Quadi and other tribes in the less populated regions of Dacia, Pannonia, Moesia, Germania and Italy. He soon realizes his error, and late in his rule has the tribes forcibly resettled out of the Italian province.

231 : Gallienus cedes part of Pannonia to the Macromannic king Attalus.

268 - 270 : After defeating the Gothic peoples on the eastern frontier, Claudius settles many of the survivors as ‘coloni’, or colonial citizens, with many of the same rights and obligations as Romans. His successor Probus takes much the same approach with the incoming Vandals, Burgundians and Bastarnae of the North.

285 - 305 : Under Diocletian, with the re-settlement of the barbarian peoples’ well underway, the frontiers of the Roman polity begin to contract (particularly along the Rhine). Client states being to occupy many previously Roman territories as barbarian kings begin to exert local influence. The Frisans and Franks are settled in less-cultivated regions of Gaul.

313 : Edict of Milan; official toleration of Christianity within the Empire. It’s important to note after this point many of the barbarian tribes began to covert quickly to Arian forms of Christianity (i.e. the belief in the semi-divinity of Christ).

325 : Council of Nicea.

330 : Byzantium reconstructed by Constantine as Constantinople.

334 : Constantine reportedly settles 300,000 Sarmatians in Thrace, Sythia and Macedonia. Archeological evidence now seems to contradict early historians’ statistics; more likely some 30,000 peoples were moved into these areas.

364: Roman tribunes have begun to permit the migration and settlement of Frank tribes around Belgium. Saint Basil defends the liberal arts after newly converted Emperor Justian bans the study of pagan authors.

370 : Valentinian settles captive Alamanni (literally, the ‘all-men’) in northern Italy, where drought and plague has seriously reduced the number of farmers.

376 : Valens orders his colonial administrators to permit the major Visigoth (Western tribes of Tervingi) immigration into Roman territory. The corrupt officials in the region demand slaves and gold from the starving refugees, who were reportedly fleeing the Huns further to the East. The Romans even begin to charge for dog meat along the closed border. When Valens and his legions arrive to defuse the crisis along the frontier, the tribal leaders are already furious at their treatment, and throw themselves headlong at the legions. Ten-thousand of Rome’s elite guard and the Emperor himself are massacred at the Battle of Adrianople; news of the Emperor’s death hits the Western cities like a bomb. Panic spreads across the Empire.

378: Visigoth tribes, driven out of Eastern Europe by the Huns, appear on the Danube frontier, begging for sanctuary. They move also towards Constantinople, sparking the battle of Adrianople and killing the Eastern emperor, Valens.

380: A repentant Saint Augustine of Hippo begins writing The City of God. The Vatican becomes the centre of the Roman Catholic faith, absorbing the dress, mannerisms and infrastructure of the decaying Roman Empire. Theophilus of Alexandria and his Christian community riot in the streets, destroying the Serapeum and other pagan sites.

395 : Atilla the Hun, Scourge of God, arrives at the Danube. The Eastern and Western Empire are split permanently by Theodosius into separate entities. The Visigothic Revolt let by Alaric begins, as the united tribes march to the West in search of food and land.

402 : Establishment of Western capital of the empire at Ravenna; Stilicho recalls his troops from the northern frontiers to defend Italy against the Visigoths. The Great Invasion, or Völkerwanderungen of the Vandals, Seuvi and Burgundians begins.

410 : Roman Britain is abandoned by the legions. Barbarian general Stilicho is executed by order of emperor Honorius. The Visigoths reach Rome, but find no food there either (according to Gregory the Great) and so then move on to settle northern Spain. Their leader, Alaric dies and is replaced by Ataulf. The influx of Germanic tribes is already well underway as the Roman noble classes withdraw from civic life almost entirely to live in their rural villas around Italy. Roman schools in Antioch, Beirut and Gaza are closed as the effective borders of the Empire begin to recede and even Britain is abandoned by the Roman Legions. Hypatia is lynched by a Christian mob on the steps of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Augustine publishes his Confessions.

420 : Visigoth chieftain Wallia is appeased with lands for settlement in southern Gaul, around Aquitaine with a capital at Toulouse. The first Angle and Saxon tribes cross the Channel and invade Britain, which has been abandoned by Rome. Augustine continues to write.

429 : Vandal tribes, under Gaiseric the Lame, move into North Africa after crossing the Strait of Gibraltar in a three-month ferrying operation (reportedly they had to use rowboats and small fishing rafts). In the last years of his life, Saint Augustine makes mention of these fierce new peoples from the north, and speculates about the power of Rome’s armies and to were it has been diverted.

432: The Nestorian heresy is condemned in the Western church wihile the monophysite heresy gains ground in the East. Saint Patrick, an Irish peasant taken as a slave boy to England by Roman legionnaires (and there known as Patricus) returns to Ireland a literate and Christian priest. Death of Saint Augustine.

443: Burgundian tribes settle in Savoy, near the Rhone, forming their own kingdom.

476: The last Roman Emperor of the West is replaced by the Germanic king, Odoacer.

493: Theodoric the Ostrogoth brings to peace to Italy by making peace between the Romans and Gothic tribes. The Iconoclast Controversy begins to spread through the Eastern Empire, forbidding all graven images and leading to the exile of many scholars. Clovis, King of the Franks, converts his peoples to the Catholic faith.

500: Celt-Christian Saint Brigid founds a monastery at Kildare and becomes the faith`s first abbess.

529: The Dark Ages officially begin. The Emperor of the Eastern Empire, Justinian, closes the Academy of Athens while Saint Benedict establishes his monatsic Rule. He then proceeds to to campaign against the Ostrogothic and Vandal diaspora, the remnants of which are absorbed under the banner of Islam late in the next century.
Source: Justine Randers-Pherson, Barbarians and Romans: The Struggle of Europe, AD 400-700 (1983) – N.B. An excellent composition, with an individual chapter devoted to the trials and migrations of each of the major tribes, and all their difficulties as they encountered one another, as well as the Romans. Also, G. M. Ste-Croix’s Class Struggle in the Ancient World from the Archaic Age to the Arab Conquests (Oxford: 1981).

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