War Against the Roman Empire: German Barbarians

Published on June 05, 2014 by Ruth Lee[d]

In the first decade of the 1st Century AD, Germania represented a "Terra Incognita" to the Romans. Indeed, to lump the fractious group of people who were constantly fighting each other into one group, would seem to have been a misnomer, despite the fact that they were linguistically-related. The Romans eventually succeeded in conquering the Gauls, because they understood them better. The Gauls had a culture more similar to other Mediterranean cultures that Rome previously conquered.


During the height of the Roman Empire the Germanic tribes had no written history, so the only accounts remaining from their culture comes from the Romans. The famous Roman historian, Tacitus, wrote: "The Germanic people live for themselves, separated from each other," wrote: "The biggest settlements numbered in 25 houses, with humans and animals living under the same roof. Town and cities, like those in the rest of the Empire are unknown, here. For the Romans, the people are more like uncivilized savages than humans...the marshes that cover this territory are repulsive. The forests make one shiver with fear."

To the bewilderment of the Romans, there were no roads and no trade routes or destinations  - just an enormous forest which was seemingly endless, foreign, and fearsome, since over the millennium of building their civilization and shipping fleets, Italy had become nearly deforested.

tags: History
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